Wednesday morning, two days before the team’s final preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, the news broke that Dwayne Haskins would get his first chance to start for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That reward comes after a preseason and training camp where Haskins has made a claim for the team’s backup job and to supersede Mason Rudolph in that role.
Speaking with the media Wednesday, Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin elaborated on giving the offseason signing his first chance to start in the final audition for the team’s backup job.
“I’m just interested in seeing him play more. This process is fair in that everybody gets an opportunity to show your skillset, and we work hard to get to know him,” Tomlin said. “He’s new to us. And so the additional reps and exposure’s good for him and for us to get to know him.”
Arriving after two poor seasons as the Washington starter, where Haskins was a first-round draft pick in 2019, Haskins has played his way into contention in Pittsburgh in his second chance. Throughout much of camp he looked superior to Rudolph, the team’s third-round pick in 2018 and presumed backup and likely future starter once Ben Roethlisberger retires. That has carried over to preseason play, where in three games Haskins has played at a similar level to Rudolph.
In three games, Haskins has 271 passing yards and a touchdown on 28-42 passing while coming in midway through each contest, compared with 299 yards on 27-36 passing from Rudolph who has received two of the three starts. Rudolph holds the advantage in completion percentage (75% to 66.7%) and average yards per completion (11.1 to 9.7), but Haskins has led the team to more scoring drives.
With the roles flipped, Haskins will get a chance to play with whichever starters the Steelers decide to send out in the preseason finale, though at least one, running back Najee Harris, has already been confirmed to not be playing. The Steelers plan to give each of Haskins and Rudolph over a quarter of play, though Tomlin stressed that that can be adjusted depending on how things are going on-field.
“Again, we got a plan, but we’ll play it by ear. We’re always committed to being light on our feet to get the information we desire,” Tomlin said.
Despite the strong offseason, Haskins remains an underdog to actually win the team’s backup job. But staying in contention for so long, and a strong showing as the starter Friday night, could lead to his hitting the field quicker should Rudolph struggle if called upon to fill in for Roethlisberger.